Our schoolchildren need help, not excuses
As an elected official in Smithfield, I read the recent article, “Candidates say don’t judge book cover,” about a forum held in Smithfield for school board candidates.
I take exception to the candidates’ use of the word “perception” to dismiss the poor performance of Smithfield and Selma schools. It’s not a perception problem; the problem is poor grades. Last year, Smithfield-Selma High School earned a D on its state report card. That had been the norm at SSS for quite a few years.
School board candidates – there will be eight on the November ballot – can talk about the many positives at SSS, and they can cast blame on the family or the community or the church for poor performance. But the blame for this situation falls clearly on the shoulders of the school system.
Why don’t the candidates and current school board members insist that the school system publish the number of children who are supposed to be attending our schools here in Smithfield but are not? Or do the candidate and school board not want the public to know how many families are allowed to select what school they want their children to attend?
While my children attended SSS, many higher-achieving students were allowed to move to another school. Not surprisingly, test scores fell. This practice is still going on, and it needs to stop.
Several years ago at a public meeting, I brought up this practice of allowing children to move to another school and how I felt it was hurting our schools here in Smithfield. The school board member who was at this meeting said to a roomful of people that the school system no longer allowed this practice. Funny thing is, I had a family member who was a teacher who saw the list of Smithfield children not attending our middle school, and it was almost 150 that year. So this school board member was either uninformed or not telling the truth.
We need school board members who are willing to accept these facts and do something about it. The long-standing policy of allowing students to transfer out of SSS, or any other school, is a big part of the problem. Blaming low test scores on excuses such as family involvement or the community or any other reason is just an excuse for poor performance. It is time for our school board to take action.
The reality of the situation in Johnston County is that 70 percent or more of students who attend our schools don’t get a four-year college degree. This is about 10 percent above the state average. School leaders can talk about the top-achieving students, the International Baccalaureate program and all the accolades you want to bring up, but the underlying problem is very clear to those of us who live in the community.
You are hired or elected to run our public schools, and we expect you to fix problems like this, not give excuses. Don’t create the problems because of policy or rules and don’t sit by and just let it keep happening. The last time I looked, your budget was a very large number, and I for one don’t think that our community is getting what we are paying for.
Our public schools should be something we can use as a tool to bring residential growth. Our school system should be something that helps us attract industry to Smithfield. Instead, it’s one of the biggest issues we face when speaking to perspective residents or industry.
Change starts at the top, and this community and these children need help, not excuses.
Smithfield Town Council